Jason Ruppert is a natural winemaker of the highest order, which means vineyard work is arduous (he does everything himself, all by hand) and cellar work is a breeze — at least in theory. Natural winemaking (no additions, including sulphur) can be agonizingly unpredictable, and thus requires the constant vigilance of a helicopter parent. And then there are the crystals — Rose Quartz, Fluorite, Labradorite and Shungite — which Jason uses throughout the fermentation and aging process to add energy and vibrancy to the finished wines. For his 2020 Frontenac, Jason fermented the grapes whole-cluster, meaning the entire bunches were placed into the vat, stems and all, contributing savoriness and structure. Six days later, fermentation concluded, Jason basket-pressed the wine to neutral barrique (used French barrels) where the wine aged for 11 months prior to bottling. **Barrel Aging 101: new barrels add sweet vanilla and clove flavors that often overpower the wine. In contrast, neutral barrels — barrels that have been used in at least four previous vintages — work to enhance what’s already there.**
Most would agree that the climate crisis demands drastic and immediate action. Yet few have staked their careers on it. Jason Ruppert has — and thankfully, he’s not entirely alone. As a result, American wine is entering a vibrant new era of sustainability. Jason's path to winemaking was far from straightforward. First came the sommelier years — a celebrated career at top restaurants in Sonoma and San Francisco. Then came the farming and winemaking apprenticeships (his list of mentors includes industry greats like Ted Lemon, Steve Matthiasson, Pax Mahle, Laura Brennan, Scott Schultz, Jaimee Motley, Ryan and Megan Glaab). Finally, in 2018, he founded Ardure with a mission of elevating the status of American hybrid varieties. Long overlooked, American hybrids — hardy and disease-resistant crossings of European and North American grapes — are just beginning to receive the recognition they deserve. Not only are they delicious — they answer one of wine's most pressing questions: How to navigate our extreme and increasingly unpredictable climate reality? Speaking of which: at almost 6,000 feet, Jobs Peak Vineyard (where Jason sources the grapes for this wine) is about as extreme as it gets. Imagine the Alps if the Alps were located an hour south of Reno. While the views alone are worth the climb — the extraterrestrial blue of Lake Tahoe, the Sierra Nevada Mountains carving endlessly north — for an ambitious winemaker like Jason, the stakes are much higher. It’s a once-in-a-career opportunity to channel a place few will ever get to experience (or, for that matter, even know exists). But most importantly of all, it's a chance to shift the conversation by proving that sustainability doesn't have to come at a cost.